VICTORVILLE (CBSLA) — What appeared to be a kind gesture for the family of a boy who was allegedly dead turned out to be a scam, according to Victorville police.

A 20-year-old man and two 14-year-old boys were holding signs that read “Funeral Donations” and “Thank you and God Bless you” with photos of a boy near U.S. 395 and Palmdale Road, police said.

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credit: San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department

When police investigated Monday, they found that the boy was not deceased and is the son of one of the suspect’s friends. That suspect has been identified as 20-year-old Richard Navarrete.

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The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said each of the suspects had water bottles filled with donated money. All three are facing charges for theft by false pretenses.

“They took hard-earned money from a lot of people,” said one mother of six who wished to remain anonymous. She said she saw a woman at a nearby park with the same sign and container and gave her $5. “[She] took the money and just said ‘thank you’ for it.[…] If they don’t get tougher punishment, it’s not gonna stop.”

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Anyone who was a victim of the scheme or has information about the investigation is asked to contact the Victorville Police Department at 760-241-2911 or sheriff’s dispatch at 760-956-5001.